“We work more effectively when we continually alter our study routines and abandon any 'dedicated space' in favor of varied locations. Sticking to one learning ritual, in other words, slows us down."
—Benedict Carey, How We Learn
All of us, musicians and non-musicians alike, tend to share an image of what “practice” looks like. You sit down in a quiet room. You focus. You have concrete goals, broken down into tasks—ideally in written form—and you address each of them conscientiously. You use your metronome. It’s hard work, but you do it because you want to get better. That’s how it works, right?
Well, sure—but not always. Practice can take many forms. The thing is, we don’t commonly characterize all of them as “practice”—but we should.
There are myriad ways to practice, and as you continue to learn and grow as a musician, you will no doubt identify some of your own. Here, I’d like to discuss four modes of practice that I’ve found useful. I’ll call them: deliberate, casual, diverted, and empty-handed.